On Thursday, outside a hardware store in suburban Washington, the Republicans unveiled their platform for the midterm election. Calling their document A Pledge to America, the prologue was full of traditional Republican boilerplate:
We pledge to advance policies that promote greater liberty, wider opportunity, a robust defense, and national economic prosperity.
We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life and the private and faith based organizations that form the core of our American values.
The problem — as with any political platform — is that the devil is in the details. And a close reading of “The Pledge” reveals that Republicans, indeed, plan to give the devil his due. Specifically, they propose to:
1. Roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving at least $100 billion dollars in the first year alone.
2. Repeal and replace the government take over of health care.
3. Make the Bush tax cuts permanent.
There is a great deal in the document about the tyranny of big government. But, as Paul Krugman points out, the Republican platform is essentially a “war on arithmetic:”
The document repeatedly condemns federal debt — 16 times by my account. But the main substantive policy proposal is to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, which independent estimates say would add $3.7 trillion to the debt over the next decade — about $700 billion more than the Obama administration’s tax proposals.
There is a legitimate argument to be made about when the Bush tax cuts should be phased out. And it bears repeating that the plan was, indeed, to phase them out. But what Republicans really want is to enter a time warp — to return to a time when the Bush economic program was in place, and when there was no national health insurance program.
However, they want more than that: they want to privatize social security. Taking their cue from former House Leader Dick Armey, a number of Republican candidates now refer to Social Security as a “ponzi scheme.” Not only do they want to roll back Obamacare. They want to roll back the New Deal.
Never mind that the financial meltdown of 2008 proved exactly why Social Security should not be privatized. Never mind that Bush’s own advisers warned that the cost of administering a private social security program would rise from 0.9% to 5%. That is all minutiae. The real problem, they say, is government.
That was Ronald Reagan’s line. We now have thirty years of data on the success of Reagan’s experiment. Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” What “The Pledge” makes clear is that losing the 2008 election has driven the Republican Party crazy.
Canada’s Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This is cross posted from his blog Northern Reflections.